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Your lawyer is not acting within the bounds of the canons of ethics. Your deposit is totally separate and distinct from any billing issues he may have with you. Until and unless he were to sue you and obtain a judgment against you, he has no legal right to retain any portion of your deposit. Furthermore, given your facts, his incompetence caused the need for the additional services, so it's not likely he would prevail in any suit. What you want to do is raise the stakes on him so that he knows that not complying with your demands is going to cost him far more in the end than simply releasing your deposit now. You should send him a certified, return receipt requested letter detailing the history and demanding he release your earnest money in total within a short specified period of time. Inform him that if he does not timely comply with your demand, you will have no choice but to: i) file a formal ethics complaint with the state bar association
, and ii) file a suit against him for your damages
. Be sure to specifically mention that you will be filing this claim not only as a breach of contract case, but also as deceptive trade practice, legal malpractice and bad faith actions, which will entitle you not only to your actual damages, but also an additional amount equal to multiple times your actual damages as punitive damages. That should provide plenty of incentive to comply with your demands; but, if it does not, file your ethics complaint and your suit.
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